Top critical review
A trip down the mean streets
15 May 2016
This adaptation of the novel by Dashiel Hammet has more plot turns than a corkscrew on steroids. It deals with the noir world of corruption, coercion and dirty politics. Paul Madvig ( Brian Donlevy)is the local big wheel who has decided to back the reform candidate, Henry for Governor. He has already been annoying the local mob bosses like Nick Varna by shutting down their gambling houses. He is in with the D.A., Farr who did not take too kindly to his losses.
There are several relationships which keep the p,lot wheels spinning. Madvig's sister, Opal is in love with Henry's son, Taylor Henry who is a complete waste of space up to his ears in gambling debts who winds up dead in the gutter. He is found by Madvig's right-hand man and fixer, Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd) who reports back to his boss about what procedure to follow. Veronica Lake without the peek-a-boo hairstyle played Janet, Henry's daughter; she is in fact, the reason why Madvig was supporting Her Dad. The battle lines are drawn when Varna and his goons try to frame Madvig for Taylor' s killing to wreck Henry's chances of being elected.
Ed Beaumont confronts Varna who aimed to use him as a conduit for raking the dirt on Madvig. He is severely beaten by Varna's goons but eventually escapes via a smashed window and a plummet through a glass roof . It seems as if everybody is doing reverse ferrets and batting for the other side, especially when Opal joins the Varna camp. The camp also has Matthews, a newspaper editor who could splash the 'story'
concerning Madvig's apparent guilt about Taylor's death. The frissons keep coming right up to the end.
There was plenty to keep the audience interested as to the denouement which actually turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax. The focus was on the muscular performance of Brian Donlevy matched by William Bendix as a sadistic thug. The balance of power kept shifting but there was loyalty,friendship and dependence in the mix. There was the usual noir style of clipped dialogue but Veronica Lake was not in the usual role of a bad-news noir 'dame' like Claire Trevor in 'Farewell my Lovely' or Jane Greer in 'Build my Gallows High' . The plot was too crowded basically and one had to concentrate to follow it.